MAGE IN SHEPHERD'S CLOTHES The attack was not wolf madness, but wolf boldness. They had come, had taken what they wanted without challenge, and they had grown confident. Now they wanted her sheep. Now they wanted her. The pack leader, silver-tipped-black and immense, faced Faia and strode stiff-legged forward; head down, ears flat back, pale, cold eyes gleaming. His lips drew back from yellowed teeth. He rumbled a warning growl as he advanced. She clutched her staff, and her belly tightened with fear. There was no time to reach for the slingshot and the studded wolfshot. She made a quick thrust at the beast with her walking stick that caught him in the teeth. He danced back, and crouched for a leap, his eyes fixed on her throat. Lady, help me! Faia drew the earth's energy, thinking it into her staff, thinking, Give the staff strength! And somehow, she was outside of herself, and staring down at the massive black wolf and the tall, rangy girl who faced him off with nothing but a brass-tipped walking stick. At the same instant, she was inside herself, and the strength was there—earth-strength, Lady-strength, confidence. Faia, stilled inside, deadly calm, swung the staff up as the wolf lunged and caught him across the chest; the impact of his great weight flung her backward a staggered step. But light flowed from the staff around the wolf, blazing green fire. The wolf screamed, its voice for a moment disconcertingly human. Then he crumpled to the ground and was still—unmarked, stone dead. At the scream, the other wolves vanished into the forest, disappearing like the memories of shadows.
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